Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brooklyn Streetcar Feasibility Study

New York City DOT's Chris Hrones hosted the first meeting of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for the Study last night. The meeting was attended by representatives of various community groups in the Cobble Hill to Red Hook area, other government agencies and a number of people who have been active for years in trying to bring streetcar service to Brooklyn. Funding for the study was obtained from the federal government by our congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.

While you might think that provision of streetcar service would be the responsibility of the MTA, Hrones noted that DOT is taking the lead in addressing transportation policy on many fronts including improvements to bus service, the very noticeable expansion of bicycle lanes throughout the city as well as a host of other initiatives.

The presentation made to the group is available at the DOT website devoted to the study and also contains a brief overview of streetcars.

The question and answer period produced some interesting information:
  • Although the MTA is a member of the CAC, they had no representatives at the meeting. Hrones noted that MTA operates the buses and subways but would not necessarily be the operator of streetcars. However, the MTA will be a necessary partner in the study and implementation of a streetcar system in order to coordinate services. An attendee observed that inter-agency coordination/rivalry was a critical issue and would could potentially delay or kill the project.
  • The study will include a ridership demand projection based on census data, data from other cities with streetcars, bus ridership data, and information from the Ikea shuttle.
  • While the study area encompasses a broad range of neighborhoods including Downtown and Vinegar hill, the primary objective is providing service to/from Red Hook. Proposed routes will always have portions in Red Hook and will extend variously to other locations in the study area such as subway stations or other destinations.
  • Other cities that have installed streetcars have experienced increased economic development along the streetcar route. The feasibility study will address potential economic impact and the required coordination with agencies such as Dept of City Planning and EDC which may have programs in progress for the affected areas. Several attendees noted the importance of reliable transit for store and business owners in Red Hook. Given the large public investment required for a streetcar service there would surely follow a desire to secure the viability of this system by promoting development along the route.
You can contribute your thoughts at two Community Board meetings: CB2 Transportation Committee on 11/16 and CB6 Transportation Committee on 11/18 . There will be a public meeting early in 2011 and there will eventually be an interactive map on the DOT project website where you can record your own suggested route.

See also the timely and fascinating information at the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association website.

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